Friday, September 24, 2010

The Deep End by Owen Dudley

The Deep End by Owen Dudley
ACE D-195
Copyright 1956

But you don't shoot cops. That's the end, if you do. The real deep end.

Pete Summer lost his memory from a plane crash over Mexican waters. As his memory returns, he decides to hide out in a quiet Mexican town for a year. And for good reason. Back home in California they believe he killed the man that he was flying to South America on a mineral deal. Everyone thinks Pete Summer is dead until a visitor arrives bringing back bad memories. He learns that his gorgeous wife is now married to an ex-gangster. Not only does Pete miss his wife, he is totally obsessed with her. So he decides to head back home to reclaim his wife. And that may not be such a great idea.

His face hardened. "Let's not kid ourself. You've got a beautiful pan hooked onto a terrific body. But there's nothing behind the face. You just do what I tell you and keep your mouth shut."

Owen Dudley is just one pseudonym that author Dudley Dean McGaughey used. He wrote plenty of novels and short stories, and Westerns fill the bulk of his work. But he did churn out crime mysteries and even some movie novelizations. (my favorite is End of the World for the 1962 Ray Milland film Panic in Year Zero!) He's a darn good storyteller and his early Gold Medal Westerns are some the best that they published. As for The Deep End, it's not the best Dudley Dean book that I've read, but it has a interesting little plot going on.

Pete Summers is a veteran of two wars,WWII and Korea, and that helped mold him into a tough hombre. But the odds are stacked against him from the start. Once word gets out that he is alive and in town, just about everyone is out to get him. Pete's brother-in-law has positioned himself to benefit having Pete presumed dead. Pete's arrival has jeopardize that. His wife's new husband has three thugs hanging around, ready to get their hands on Pete. And then he discovers that the man who bought his old ranch has been bedding his wife for years. After being left for dead in an old sewer hole, Pete really sets out to clear his name from the murder charge and even it up against those who wronged him.

It's a story that has been told before, it even includes that young girl character who had a crush on Pete growing up and is willing to help him through his quest. I liked the Mexican tie-in and having an ex-gangster as his wife's new husband. There a bit about the old guy having trouble satisfying his wife and resorting to hormone ejections. (No Viagra in the 1950s fellas!) It's a hardboiled read and it has plenty of action, but there are really no surprises in the end. But that doesn't make it one that should be written off. Even though the cops and others are gunning for Pete, it really isn't a "man on the run" novel. Pete seems free to roam about as he uncovers secrets and lies from the past, many involving his wife who was everything to him. The novel zips along at a fast clip, and it has to because these ACE paperback novels rarely get beyond 150 pages. Overall a fairly decent job.

What is real good about this ACE Double paperback is the flip novel, The Quaking Widow by Robert Colby. Colby never got the fame and recognition that he deserved. Besides his outstanding Gold Medal paperbacks and his fine short stories, he had four novels published by ACE. I've read them all and The Quaking Widow is the best of the four.

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